United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana
WILLIAM D. SHORT
SHERIFF MARLIN GUSMAN, GARY D. MAYNARD, and DARNLEY R. HODGE, SR.
ORDER AND REASONS
J. BARBIER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
the Court are two Motions to Dismiss (Rec. Docs. 37,
38) pursuant to Rules 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6) filed by
Defendants, Sheriff Marlin Gusman, Gary D. Maynard, and
Darnley R. Hodge, Sr. Plaintiff, William D. Short, opposes
both motions (Rec. Doc. 41). Defendants filed replies (Rec.
Docs. 44, 47). Having considered the motions and legal
memoranda, the record, and the applicable law, the Court
finds that the motions should be GRANTED.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
litigation arises out of Plaintiff's termination from his
position with the Orleans Parish Sheriff's Office for
allegedly reporting late to a random drug screening and
having his urine test positive for oxycodone, a controlled
substance, without having a prescription for the drug.
Following his termination on September 22, 2017, Plaintiff
filed the instant action against Sheriff Marlin Gusman
(“Sheriff Gusman”) and former court-appointed
Compliance Director Gary D. Maynard (“Maynard”),
alleging unlawful termination under the Fourteenth Amendment
through 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and pursuant to the Louisiana
Employee Drug Testing Law. Plaintiff also seeks injunctive
relief against Sheriff Gusman and the current Compliance
Director, Darnley R. Hodge, Sr. (“Hodge”), to
reinstate Plaintiff's employment as a captain with the
Orleans Parish Sheriff's Office.
deciding a motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter
jurisdiction under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1),
“the district court is ‘free to weigh the
evidence and resolve factual disputes in order to satisfy
itself that it has the power to hear the case.'”
Krim v. pcOrder.com, Inc., 402 F.3d 489, 494 (5th
Cir. 2005). The party asserting jurisdiction must carry the
burden of proof for a Rule 12(b)(1) motion to dismiss.
Randall D. Wolcott, M.D., P.A. v. Sebelius, 635 F.3d
757, 762 (5th Cir.2011). The standard of review for a motion
to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(1) is the same as that for a
motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6). United
States v. City of New Orleans, No. 02-3618, 2003 WL
22208578, at *1 (E.D. La. Sept. 19, 2003). If a court lacks
subject matter jurisdiction, it should dismiss without
prejudice. In re Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Co.,
624 F.3d 201, 209 (5th Cir. 2010).
the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a complaint must
contain “a short and plain statement of the claim
showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). The complaint must “give the
defendant fair notice of what the claim is and the grounds
upon which it rests.” Dura Pharm., Inc. v.
Broudo, 544 U.S. 336, 346 (2005) (internal citations
omitted). The allegations “must be simple, concise, and
direct.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(d)(1).
Rule 12(b)(6), a claim may be dismissed when a plaintiff
fails to allege any set of facts in support of his claim
which would entitle him to relief.” Taylor v. Books
A Million, Inc., 296 F.3d 376, 378 (5th Cir. 2002)
(citing McConathy v. Dr. Pepper/Seven Up Corp., 131
F.3d 558, 561 (5th Cir. 1998)). To survive a Rule 12(b)(6)
motion to dismiss, the plaintiff must plead enough facts to
“state a claim to relief that is plausible on its
face.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678
(2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S.
544, 570 (2007)). A claim is facially plausible when the
plaintiff pleads facts that allow the court to “draw
the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the
misconduct alleged.” Id. A court must accept
all well-pleaded facts as true and must draw all reasonable
inferences in favor of the plaintiff. Lormand v. U.S.
Unwired, Inc., 565 F.3d 228, 232 (5th Cir. 2009);
Baker v. Putnal, 75 F.3d 190, 196 (5th Cir. 1996).
The court is not, however, bound to accept as true legal
conclusions couched as factual allegations. Iqbal,
556 U.S. at 678. “[C]onclusory allegations or legal
conclusions masquerading as factual conclusions will not
suffice to prevent a motion to dismiss.”
Taylor, 296 F.3d at 378.
ARGUMENTS AND DISCUSSION
Whether the Individual Capacity Claims Against Maynard are
Barred by Judicial Immunity
and Hodge (collectively “the Compliance
Directors”) argue that the claims against Maynard must
be dismissed because they are barred by absolute judicial
immunity. (Rec. Doc. 37-1 at 4). The Compliance Directors
assert that at all relevant times, Maynard was the
court-appointed Compliance Director for the Orleans Parish
Jail and was appointed by Judge Africk to implement a Consent
Judgment relating to conditions of confinement. (Rec. Doc.
37-1 at 4). They emphasize that the Jones
Court's Stipulated Order provides that the Compliance
Director is “answerable only to the Court, ” and
is “a representative of the Court [rather than] an
employee of OPSO.” (Rec. Doc. 37-1 at 5). The
Compliance Directors contend that the position of Compliance
Director is analogous to that of a court-appointed receiver
because the Compliance Director possesses all the relevant
characteristics and derives his authority entirely from and
is answerable only to the Court. (Rec. Doc. 37-1 at 6). Thus,
the Compliance Directors assert that Maynard is entitled to
absolute judicial immunity for actions taken within the scope
of his court-granted authority. (Rec. Doc. 37-1 at 6). While
they acknowledge that the Stipulated Order granted the
Compliance Director final authority to terminate the
employment of contractors and individual employees who have
attained the rank of Captain or higher only for misconduct,
failing to satisfy job expectations, financial prudence,
operational efficiency, or inhibiting progress toward Consent
Judgment Compliance (Rec. Doc. 37-1 at 5, 6), they emphasize
that Plaintiff's termination from his position as captain
for failing a drug screen falls within the scope of the
Compliance Director's authority (Rec. Doc. 37-1 at 10,
argues in opposition that the Compliance Directors are not
entitled to absolute judicial immunity because they are not
officers of the Jones Court. (Rec. Doc. 41 at 9).
Plaintiff avers that the Compliance Directors “are
simply what the Stipulated Order expressly says that they
are: independent contractors appointed by Sheriff Gusman to
administer the Orleans Parish Justice Center per the terms of
the parties' negotiated settlement….” (Rec.
Doc. 41 at 9-10). Nevertheless, Plaintiff argues that even if
the Compliance Directors are “officers” of the
Jones Court, they are still not entitled to any form
of judicial immunity because Maynard's decision to
terminate Plaintiff was administrative, not adjudicative.
(Rec. Doc. 41 at 11, 13). In support of this argument,
Plaintiff asserts that (1) Maynard was acting not as an
objective adjudicator, but as the appointee of Sheriff Gusman
and (2) Maynard's decision did not afford Plaintiff any
procedural safeguards prior to termination. (Rec. Doc. 41 at
reply, the Compliance Directors maintain that they share in
the absolute immunity of the Court that appointed the
Compliance Director to bring the Orleans Parish Jail into
compliance with the Court's judgment. (Rec. Doc. 44 at
4). They first note that the Compliance Director derives his
authority entirely from the Court. (Rec. Doc. 44 at 4). They
reject Plaintiff's contention that the Stipulated Order
is merely a contract whereby Sheriff Gusman delegated some of
his authority to the Compliance Director, noting that the
Stipulated Order is an order of the Court (not merely an
agreement between the parties) and is an exercise of the
Court's authority (not a voluntary delegation of Sheriff
Gusman's authority). (Rec. Doc. 44 at 4-5). The
Compliance Directors also assert that Maynard's
termination of Plaintiff was a “judicial” act
entitled to absolute immunity because the Compliance Director
is the functional equivalent of a receiver and the challenged
actions arise out of and directly concern the litigation
before the court. (Rec. Doc. 44 at 6-8).
position of Compliance Director was created by a Stipulated
Order of the Court in order to bring the Orleans Justice
Center into compliance with a prior Consent Judgment entered
in the case. Jones et al. v. Gusman, Civil Action
No. 12-859, Ecf. No. 1082 (E.D. La. June 2013). The Consent
Judgment emerged from a class action lawsuit against the
Orleans Parish Prison initiated by prisoners in April 2012.
The district court judge approved a Consent Judgment
requiring Sheriff Gusman to implement “systemic and
durable reforms to address pervasive and longstanding
problems at the jail.” Id. In April 2016, the
plaintiffs filed a motion asking that the Court appoint a
receiver to carry out the remedies specified in the Consent
Judgment. Jones et al. v. Gusman, Civil Action No.
12-859, Ecf. No. 1009. After evidentiary proceedings, all
parties and the Court signed a Stipulated Order. See
Ecf. No. 1082. The Stipulated Order vests the Compliance
Director with “final authority to operate” the
Orleans Justice Center and all jail facilities. Id.
The Stipulated Order also provides that the Compliance
Director is “answerable only to the Court.”
Id. at 3.
Supreme Court has clearly articulated that the question of
absolute judicial immunity necessitates a functional
approach. Forrester v. White, 484 U.S. 219, 223
(1988). This approach requires examination of the
“nature of the functions with which a particular
official or class of officials has been lawfully
entrusted.” Id. Further, a court must
“evaluate the effect that exposure to particular forms
of liability would likely have on the appropriate
exercise” of such functions. See id.
“Court appointed receivers act as arms of the court and
are entitled to share the appointing judge's absolute
immunity provided that the challenged actions are taken in
good faith and within the scope of the authority granted to
the receiver.” Davis v. Bayless, 70 F.3d 367,
373 (5th Cir. 1995).
in the Eastern and Middle Districts of Louisiana have
previously dismissed suits against the Compliance Director on
the basis of judicial immunity. See Crawford v.
Gusman, No. CV 17-13397, 2018 WL 3773407, at *2 (E.D.
La. Aug. 9, 2018) (holding that the Compliance Director is a
court-appointed receiver who is entitled to derivative
judicial immunity); Crittindon v. Gusman, No. CV
17-512, Ecf. No. 78 (M.D. La) (finding that the Compliance
Director was “essentially analogous to a
court-appointed receiver, ” and “the law provides
as a matter of law for immunity as a quasi-judicial
present case, the Court concludes that the record supports a
finding that the Compliance Director is a court-appointed
receiver who is entitled to derivative judicial immunity from
Plaintiff's federal and state law claims. The Compliance
Director is a position that was both created and funded by
the Court and charged with implementing the substantive
measures detailed in the Court's Consent Judgment.
Plaintiff attempts to argue that the Compliance Director is
not entitled to judicial immunity because the decision to
terminate Plaintiff was administrative. However, Plaintiff
has produced no facts to suggest that the challenged action
was not taken in good faith, nor has he shown that his
termination was outside the scope of the Compliance
Director's authority. Specifically, the Stipulated Order
gave the Compliance Director the final authority to
discipline and terminate employees who had attained the rank
of Captain or higher for misconduct, failing to satisfy job
expectations, financial prudence, operational efficiency, or
inhibiting progress toward Consent Judgment compliance.
See Jones, Ecf. No. 1082 at 12. There is no dispute
that Plaintiff's drug screen tested positive for
oxycodone and he was unable to produce a prescription. The
record reflects that it was squarely ...